We included a total of 138 trials randomising a total of 25,232 participants. The 138 trials assessed the effects of 51 different DAAs. Of these, 128 trials employed matching placebo in the control group. All included trials were at high risk of bias. Eighty-four trials involved DAAs on the market or under development (13,466 participants). Fifty-seven trials administered withdrawn or discontinued DAAs. Trial participants were treatment-naive (95 trials), treatment-experienced (17 trials), or both treatment-naive and treatment-experienced (24 trials). The HCV genotypes were genotype 1 (119 trials), genotype 2 (eight trials), genotype 3 (six trials), genotype 4 (nine trials), and genotype 6 (one trial). We identified two ongoing trials.
Meta-analysis of the effects of all DAAs on the market or under development showed no evidence of a difference when assessing hepatitis C-related morbidity or all-cause mortality (OR 3.72, 95% CI 0.53 to 26.18, P = 0.19, I² = 0%, 2,996 participants, 11 trials, very low-quality evidence). As there were no data on hepatitis C-related morbidity and very few data on mortality (DAA 15/2377 (0.63%) versus control 1/617 (0.16%)), it was not possible to perform Trial Sequential Analysis on hepatitis C-related morbidity or all-cause mortality.
Meta-analysis of all DAAs on the market or under development showed no evidence of a difference when assessing serious adverse events (OR 0.93, 95% CI 0.75 to 1.15, P = 0.52, I² = 0%, 15,817 participants, 43 trials, very low-quality evidence). The Trial Sequential Analysis showed that the cumulative Z-score crossed the trial sequential boundary for futility, showing that there was sufficient information to rule out that DAAs compared with placebo reduced the relative risk of a serious adverse event by 20%. The only DAA that showed a significant difference on risk of serious adverse events when meta-analysed separately was simeprevir (OR 0.62, 95% CI 0.45 to 0.86). However, Trial Sequential Analysis showed that there was not enough information to confirm or reject a relative risk reduction of 20%, and when one trial with an extreme result was excluded, then the meta-analysis result showed no evidence of a difference.
DAAs on the market or under development seemed to reduce the risk of no sustained virological response (RR 0.44, 95% CI 0.37 to 0.52, P < 0.00001, I² = 77%, 6886 participants, 32 trials, very low-quality evidence) and Trial Sequential Analysis confirmed this meta-analysis result.
Only 1/84 trials on the market or under development assessed the effects of DAAs on health-related quality of life (SF-36 mental score and SF-36 physical score).
Withdrawn or discontinued DAAs had no evidence of a difference when assessing hepatitis C-related morbidity and all-cause mortality (OR 0.64, 95% CI 0.23 to 1.79, P = 0.40, I² = 0%; 5 trials, very low-quality evidence). However, withdrawn DAAs seemed to increase the risk of serious adverse events (OR 1.45, 95% CI 1.22 to 1.73, P = 0.001, I² = 0%, 29 trials, very low-quality evidence), and Trial Sequential Analysis confirmed this meta-analysis result.
Most of all outcome results were short-term results; therefore, we could neither confirm nor reject any long-term effects of DAAs. None of the 138 trials provided useful data to assess the effects of DAAs on the remaining secondary outcomes (ascites, variceal bleeding, hepato-renal syndrome, hepatic encephalopathy, and hepatocellular carcinoma).